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Author Tom Burke
Women for Women International Ambassador
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5 Tips For Men on How To Be Better Allies To Women

Words like ‘empowerment,’ ‘equality,’ ‘feminism,’ can sound so big that sometimes it’s hard to gauge the first step in joining such a dynamic and quickly growing global movement. You might be wondering – as a man, what can I do to have a meaningful impact in the fight for gender equality?

As a proud ambassador of Women for Women International, I'm learning a lot about how men can take an active role in this fight without, well, without falling back into many of the same old behaviours that feminism is liberating us (all) from.

Change often begins with taking small, simple steps. To get you started, I've broken down 5 actions you can take today to become an ally for empowerment.

1. Listen

One of the easiest ways to start to take part is to listen – really listen – to what women have to say. It sounds so simple, but often we are listening to respond – subconsciously preparing our answer, counter point, or rebuttal – instead of trying to understand the other person’s point of view.

This is a skill that is actively developed through Women for Women International’s couples' dialogue sessions – where husbands and wives have the opportunity to sit down and share how their lives look from different perspectives and create solutions together.

I saw the impact of this first-hand during my trip visiting the programme in Kosovo earlier this year and was inspired to see truly transformative change taking place before my eyes.

2. Speak up

Picture this: it’s Friday night and you’re out enjoying the beginning of the weekend. Your friend shares a story about a woman he’s recently met and uses a blatantly sexist word to describe her. What do you do?

Whether it’s a sister, mother, daughter, partner – once we start thinking of these words being applied to people we know and care about it’s a game-changer

It can be uncomfortable to raise this – especially among friends – but the words we choose speak volumes (both literally and figuratively) about how we view women. They set the standard for what’s acceptable.

Chances are you’re not the only one thinking it and – whether it’s a sister, mother, daughter, partner – once we start thinking of these words being applied to people we know and care about it’s a game-changer.

Pause. Reflect. Be brave. Speak up. There will likely be resistance, especially if you're in a group and the person is put on the spot; it may be more effective to change the subject and find time to talk to the person on their own - and in a different setting.

4. Read

There are many women writers who have penned fantastic books celebrating what empowerment means to them in all its diversity, honesty and dynamism. These books will inject some fearless and feminist voices into your daily life and expand your horizons.

If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend 50 Shades of Feminism edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes and Susie Orbach. It's an anthology that brings together a unique array of contributors, from politicians to actors to scientists, who each reflect on what feminism means to them. Diversify - Six Degrees of Integration by June Sarpong also provides great motivation to start the day with a spur to action. Happy reading!

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